Steve Sarkisian may not have won over the hearts of USC football fans who wonder if he is the man who can lead the men of Troy back to greatness, but on one issue most agree: The man is an excellent recruiter, perhaps the best in the country.
Looking forward at who will enter the draft is important since those who leave cannot be replaced by more scholarships beyond the regular limit of 25. USC’s copious use of blueshirts has reduced that number further. Certain draft eligible juniors leaving could definitely leave big holes in the future.
One such player is junior linebacker Su’a Cravens, who likely will play strong safety at the NFL level. Without Cravens this year, USC might not have a defense at all.
There is no way that he is coming back for his senior season; he will have nothing left to prove at this level. So, his replacement will be imperative to this defense having success in the future.
USA Today Sports Images
There are several ways that Cravens can be replaced with those who are currently on the USC roster. One options would be to play Uchenna Nwosu as the starting Sam linebacker. USC could also have an open competition for the spot with Nwosu and John Houston Jr., who the coaching staff is very high on and is an excellent tackler and coverage defender.
Alternatively, the coaches could move Osa Masina outside to fill the Sam role and shift John Houston inside, since those are the positions that they played in high school. However, given that they have respectively learned the inside and outside positions already as freshmen, that seems unlikely at this point.
Moreover, none of those players has the same skillset as Cravens.
Cravens is a unique player because while he is not the biggest at 6-foot-1, 225 pounds, he is extremely quick. That allows him to currently be the best pass rusher and tackler on the team, as well as the most likely to create turnovers. Whoever replaces him will need to be that type of impact player, although it is true that no one can probably do all that Cravens does.
The most likely candidate to replace Cravens is a young man who is not currently on USC’s campus — North Torrance linebacker Mique Juarez.
Juarez is currently a USC commit, although UCLA is pursuing him hard.
If anyone closely resembles Cravens from high school, it would be Juarez.
Playing quarterback and linebacker currently, the five-star recruit has soft hands and is a violent tackler with the ability to chase running backs down if they have broken free. He is a turnover machine, and has the size at 6-foot-2, 222 pounds to play at the position right now.
Cravens didn’t want to put on weight to play the position, but given that Juarez is taller and has a bigger frame than Cravens, its possible he could get to around 235-240 on a college diet without losing any speed.
Sark’s biggest challenge next season will be to replace Cravens. If he can use his magic to hang onto Juarez and convince him that being the next Su’a Cravens will bring more glory than being the next Myles Jack, his job will be considerably easier.
More from Reign of Troy
- 3 biggest takeaways from USC football’s win over UCLA
- USC football to play Oregon in Pac-12 Championship Game with Washington out
- USC football’s postgame locker room after beating UCLA was absolutely lit (Video)
- USC football’s studs and duds from a wild rivalry win over UCLA
- USC Podcast: RoT’s Carcast reacting to the comeback win over UCLA